Chapter 14 : The Mistranslation
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That is what has brought me here tonight, to an invitation only pub in the shadows of Knockturn Alley.
It has taken me two weeks to gain access to this place. I readjust my secondhand, tattered cloak from the junk shop as I lift my hood. My hair is in a tangled bun with some patches of black mixed with my dark brown. My nose is slightly longer, my fingernails slightly pointer, my chin slightly broader.
My eyes itch from the thick eyeliner, but I blink past it as I think of James. It is daft of me to think that he might be here tonight. I tuck my hopes to the back of mind as I clutch onto my satchel. While he is my end priority, tonight he is not my top one.
Muggles. Think of Muggles, I think firmly. I picture myself walking down the streets of London dressed like this in broad daylight. The baffled looks, the sneers, the eyerolls, the guffaws. I know that it’s not just Muggles who ridicule, but I let my annoyance and resentment bubble forth to the front of my mind. Tonight, I must hate them.
A green candle flares to life, and the doorknob appears. They’re ready for me. I grip onto the knob and turn it.
Even though it was still the first week of school, I felt obligated to sit in the same seat from the first class. There were only a few people in the Ancient Runes classroom, so I still had plenty of opportunities to change seats, but that would have snagged the social fabric which often accompanies classrooms. Perhaps I wasn’t bold enough to make the move or shied away from the discomfort that comes along with breaking the mold or, deep down and unwilling to admit it at the time, wanted to stay where I was. Nevertheless, I sat down in my original seat, relieved that the one next to it was still empty, and immediately started to get out my things.
The hum of the classroom got louder as more people arrived. I opened the textbook and began to make further progress on the review packet. Professor Babbling had given us this during our first class, and today we were supposed to finish it.
“Hey there, Amelia.” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw James sit down to my left. It was the first time I saw him since our argument that morning.
My shoulders tensed as I replied coolly, “Hi.” I gripped harder onto my quill as I dipped the tip of it into my inkwell.
“Working ahead?” he asked as he laid out his things on his side of the double desk.
“Guess so,” I shrugged. I turned to the penultimate page, gritting my teeth. James’ stare burned into the left side of my face as he studied me. My gaze stayed firmly on the assignment in front of me.
“Are you still mad?” he wondered.
“Do hippogriffs fly?” I answered him brusquely. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw James shake his head.
“You’re really still mad about Houses?”
“Do I really have to spell it out for you again?” I snapped, turning towards him. We sat inches apart from each other on our shared double desk, and that made the temptation to hex him all the more powerful.
“Hey, quiet down,” he said in a hushed voice, looking around. “Wouldn’t want others to think a Gryffindor and a Slytherin are actually arguing for once!”
“For Merlin’s sake, James,” I groaned, pushing the hair out of my face. The regret of not changing seats hit me like a wave.
“Merlin was a Slytherin, you know,” he said matter-of-factly as he got out his book, “in case you wanted to avoid using someone associated with a House.”
I bit back my retort is Professor Babbling started her lesson. James and I glared at each other before reluctantly giving our attention to our professor. At first, every little movement we made, whether it would be turning the page in our textbook or scratching the bridge of our nose, James and I would send side scowls at each other. My annoyance radiated from me, and I could feel it collide with James’. By the midpoint of the lesson, as the class did individual work in our review packets, I found that I could finally stop outwardly looking daggers at him.
I set the review packet aside. I only had a few translations on the last page to complete, and I was desperate to do something more interesting than how to prevent Cornish pixies from harassing sleeping children, which was the final topic in the packet. As I got out another Runes book, which I had only found when I cleared out my trunk a couple days ago, I glanced to my left. James, too, had stopped glaring at my every move, and he seemed like he was completely ignoring me, which, as I firmly reminded myself, was a good thing.
This Runes book in particular was not available in the Hogwarts library nor was it readily available for sale in Flourish and Blotts. This book was a final present my mother had given me before she left me with Aunt Susan and Uncle Michael when I was seven.
“There’s something for you and your dreams,” she had whispered to me as she hugged me for the final time. “But it’s only for you. Don’t show anyone else.”
I had wondered what it could have possibly been, and where she had hidden it. That night, as I cried myself to sleep, I had felt the book underneath my pillow. I could only read the inscription, written in a mixture of the Proto-Germanic Runes that I had learned and of the special kind of Runes that were contained in this book.
In the silence of scratching quills and turning pages in Ancient Runes class, I opened the book, tracing the inscription in my mother’s handwriting. It read: For my girl and the journey ahead. There is no good magic nor bad magic, only magic.
Since the revelation of the Hallows, I wondered what her intentions had been. Was this another way to mess with my mind? It wasn’t until I had found a matching symbol to one of the Runes in the Hogsmeade murders that I realized that this could be the key to figure out what the Runes meant. I had made the discovery only last night, and I was going to share it with James until… well, until our Houses got in the way.
I turned to the page where I had found the matching symbol. The folded up bit of parchment with the Runes kept my place. One of the five symbols from the attacks, the second symbol, according to this Runes book, meant knowledge.
Shivers traveled up and down my spine as I unfolded the piece of parchment and looked at the five Runes. Two of them were Proto-Germanic, and I had been able to translate them easily, as I was sure any Ministry official would have done in gathering evidence in the case.
Steadfast knowledge something unvarnished something.
I narrowed my gaze, looking at the fifth Rune. It was unfinished on my parchment, and I knew that I would recognize it once I saw it. What did it all mean? When I looked at the Proto-Germanic Runes, I felt nothing. But when I looked at the one for knowledge, the one I found in my mother’s book, goosebumps erupted on my arms. Something wasn’t quite right…
I quickly turned back to the cover of my mother’s book. It wasn’t a very thick tome, but most of the symbols were sinister. Why hadn’t I noticed this as a child? Was it because I didn’t want to see the reality of my mother’s actions? Could I be sure now that her intentions were bad?
The translations of the symbols weren’t in English nor in Proto-Germanic Runes as I knew them. Perhaps the translations were in Runes similar to the Proto-Germanic ones…
I was about halfway through the book when the third symbol caught my eye. Part of it was covered by my own childhood writing. Vague memories of me writing in Runes flashed before me. I had been unable to read much content in this book, and I was desperate to be able to write in Runes. I remembered believing that if I had mastered Runes, then my mother would have come back, so I practiced writing all the Runes I knew inside this book…
I read past my childhood scribblings. The Rune in question looked like it translated to something like enlighten from the ancient word leuhtą. I quickly turned to my textbook to compare Runes. The Proto-Germanic Rune in my textbook looked slightly different from the translation in my mother’s book. Frowning, I reached into my bag for another Runes dictionary.
Same thing: the Rune for enlighten was similar to the others. For our O.W.L.s in this subject, we had gone over how language changes over time, and thus so do Runes. This had to be the case with this one. For all three Runes, there were just minor changes: a slight rise in a diagonal line in one, an additional dot in another.
I wrote down the translation: Steadfast knowledge enlightens unvarnished something.
I added the English conjugation for my sake more than anything else. But the translation perplexed me. The Runes on the train station’s wall had drawn me into them, and now a bubbling urgency ballooned in my stomach. I needed to find the final Rune to translate. I needed to know what it all meant, if it even involved my mother…
The page I turned to was filled with my childhood scrawls of Runes. With a jolt, the Runes came flooding back to me.
Dog. Cat. Owl. Witch. Wizard.
It had been so long since I had used these Runes, for they weren’t Proto-Germanic… they seemed to be Nordic… or maybe Slavic…
I inhaled sharply, seeing words to a song that I used to sing with my mother, which written across the page.
”Her eyes as deep oceans
Her hair as wild fronds
Her skin as bright moonlight
Vǫlva brings the gift of wands.”
It had been ages since I had last sung it, probably when I first went to Muggle school. The old rhyme breathed from the page, pulling me back to a time when I sat by the heath in the cold winter, weaving or throwing pine cones into the fire or tracing Runes in the ashes, before my mother took me away from my first home.
The lyrics were written in Runes, of course, and I traced them with my finger. When I got to the third line, I paused, squinting down. Skin.
That was it! It had to be. The fifth Rune. I referred to my textbook for extra measure, but I was so confident that the fifth Rune was skin.
Steadfast knowledge enlightens unvarnished skin.
I crinkled my nose, which James told me later that that had been the last time he glanced over at me before we left class that day. It took us a while to get over the regret of him not looking my way after that, otherwise what happened next might have been prevented… At least, that’s what we had hoped at the time, but then we grew to realize that my actions had propelled our discoveries in the coming months.
When I rewrote the Runes after crinkling my nose, I left a slight ominus pull, but something still wasn’t quite right. I rolled my eyes at my overlooked detail. Both steadfast and unvarnished, the adjectives of these Runes, were Proto-Germanic. They didn’t fit whatever kind of Runes the other ones were.
I wrote the Runes without the adjectives, and they came to life on the parchment. They didn’t move, per se, but there was a breath to them, an energy bursting to be unveiled. I wondered why the Runes I had written as a child didn’t have the same spark, but I figured it was a simple matter of improved and more accurate penmanship.
Knowledge enlightens skin.
My quill, freshly dipped in black ink, hovered over my left hand. Knowledge enlightens skin. My heart thudded to the rhythm of the translation. Knowledge. The Rune shone brightly on the back of my hand. Enlightens. I felt the pull of the Runes. Skin. Raw magic pulsated from them.
And then the pain started.
The ink evaporated into my skin, though the Runes remained in angry, red welts. I set down my quill, staring at the back of my hand. The welts burned, and my skin around them began to redden.
I glanced around the classroom as beads of sweat formed on my brow. Everyone was still working on their packets, but there was a restlessness buzzing. The period was nearing its end. Professor Babbling hovered near the front of the room, checking someone’s work.
When I looked back at my hand, there were blisters, and the reddened skinned was growing. Was I being burned?
My breaths came quickly, but my lungs couldn’t expand to their full capacity. My heartbeat raced, but the room spun nauseously in front of me.
“I must go!” I exclaimed, jumping out of my seat. The volume of my voice came in waves, and I couldn’t tell if I was shouting.
“Amelia!” James cried out. I barely registered the inkwell I had knocked over in my outburst. Ink spread across his side of his desk and onto his lap.
“Where are you going?” Professor Babbling asked as I staggered towards the door. “Class is almost over. Can’t it wait?”
“I--er, I--” I stuttered. I jogged past my stunned classmates, cradling my left hand from view. “N-no.”
I left the door to the classroom open behind me. The corridor was empty, and I stumbled over to a window overlooking the Forbidden Forest. Sweat glistened my brow, but chills erupted throughout by body. I leaned against the wall, panting and fighting to stay awake as a deep fatigue settled in my joints.
My left hand was in agony. With a trembling right hand, I lifted the sleeve of my robe. The burns from the Runes were traveling up my arm. I needed to get to the Hospital Wing… but I wasn’t quite sure where it was. I glanced outside, swallowing my moan of pain.
“What the hell are you doing?” James demanded angrily as he emerged from the classroom. He must have excused himself from class to clean up the ink I had spilled… but the words that came out of my mouth had nothing to do with that.
“Don’t make me go,” I panted. I wiped my forehead with my right hand. “I-I don’t want to!”
“Go where?” James hesitated about a meter away from me.
“The… the forest. We c-can’t go in it… it’s f-forbid-- ow!” I groaned, turning away from him. I couldn’t bend my fingers anymore. They were swollen with blisters.
“Amelia?” James sounded so far away, but I could feel him approach me.
“W-we’ll never find it,” I gasped. Bile rose in my throat as I doubled over. “N-no… don’t make me g-go…”
James brushed the hair out of my face when he kneeled down beside me. “What’s wrong? You’re pale… and yellow... and… oh fuck, look at your hand…”
“G-get away from me!” I howled, trying to push him away, but my left arm crippled me. “I w-won’t go… you can’t m-make me…”
“We got to get you to the Hospital Wing,” James said firmly. He reached towards my good arm.
“No!” I wept. “No! D-don’t you see? We can’t! Don’t make me go to the forest… “
James paused for a moment. “Of course not,” he said quietly, resting a gentle hand on my right shoulder. He carefully lifted my chin so I could meet his eyes. “In fact, if you come with me, we won’t go near the forest.”
“He won’t f-follow us, will he?” I croaked. I grasped desperately onto his robes.
“Who’s foll--?” James stopped as my legs couldn’t support my weight anymore, and I fell into him. “Sorry! Sorry!” he apologized as he accidentally brushed against my left arm. He scooped me from the floor. “Let’s get away from the forest,” he grunted.
I wrapped my good arm around his neck, crying into his shoulder. My breaths came in short spurts, and I couldn’t feel my pulse pounding in my ears, though I could feel it faintly pacing in my chest.
When I peeked over James’ shoulder, the shadows extended their gnarled hands towards us. “L-look out!” I wheezed. “The dragons… they spit… daffodils…”
“Mr. Potter, what are you--? Oh Merlin!” a familiar voice exclaimed. I couldn’t tell who it was, nor could I see anything but dark swirls closing in around James.
“Something’s happened to her, sir,” James said. “I-I don’t know what…”
“Here. Put her on this.”
James’ grip loosened, and I felt myself fall. “No! No!” I shouted, trying to latch onto him, but James caught my good hand, clutching onto it. I was on a flat surface, and I was exposed.
“It’s only a stretcher, Amelia,” James told me. I wildly looked around. Frowning, Professor Hopkins had his wand out, and I cringed in pain.
“No!” I writhed. “I w-won’t go into the forest!” My teeth chattered, and my head lolled back onto the stretcher. I couldn’t hold it up anymore. My shoulders, elbows, and wrists flared in pain, and I couldn’t move freely. The ceiling began moving.
James’ hand was my anchor as the scene rushed past me. My eyes went in and out of focus. Something pressed against my forehead.
“She has a fever, she has,” I heard Professor Hopkins say from somewhere above me. “And her arm! Was it a spell that did this?”
“I don’t know, I don’t know,” James said hurriedly as I gasped for air. “One moment she was working on Ancient Runes, and the next... “
My vision started to fade. My grip onto James loosened. I mumbled something incoherently to them both.
“C’mon, Amelia. We’re almost to the Hospital Wing,” James told me, squeezing my hand. I didn’t have the strength to squeeze it back as I finally lost consciousness.
A/N: Anything you recognize is JKR's!
Some of you might be wondering, "Why is the present story line so short?" Well, the past story line will be as short later on in the story. It's a way to balance the narratives.
Also, this chapter was a challenge to write. There is so much inner-monologue with Amelia here! It could have been the summer heat, but I needed to open a window, she's so intense in this chapter! I'm really enjoying writing her character, and James' character, and this whole story, really.
Please let me know that you think in a review! :)
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